Introducing the 2018 co-op student of the year
Civil engineering student Daniel Wiebe graduates this spring
The path to success is rarely straight. This is certainly the case for civil engineering student Daniel Wiebe.
Wiebe grew up outside of Niverville, Manitoba. He excelled at school, especially in the sciences and math, and was even told that engineering would be a good fit for him. At the time, that wasn’t in the picture.
“I really had no idea what engineering was and therefore it didn’t really interest me,” says Wiebe, who initially came to the University of Manitoba in 2010 to study education with the hopes of becoming a teacher.
In his first year at the U of M, Wiebe took most of the typical science classes, including chemistry, biology, physics as well as math and calculus but he realized that continuing in this direction wasn’t the right choice. Teaching wasn’t his calling.
There was a huge decision in front of Wiebe and ultimately, he put the brakes on university and began working in construction until he could navigate the career road ahead. It was a brave choice, but one that would eventually help him map out his future and the direction he would excel in. By fall 2012 Wiebe was back at the U of M, this time studying engineering.
“I thought it would be cool to see the other side of construction, you know, more the design side – what actually goes into doing drawings and stuff like that because I enjoyed construction but I knew it wasn’t something that I could do forever,” says Wiebe.
As any engineering student would say, the program was a bit intense but Wiebe was determined to do well. At first, Wiebe had his mind set on civil engineering and says he didn’t even consider other fields such as biosystems, computer, electrical or mechanical. He wanted to design buildings and the structural aspect to them. He realized though, as he started taking different courses, his path kept changing.
Part of the reason why his direction shifted was due to co-op placements. Wiebe did five in total starting in 2015 with three back to back co-op terms at Trek Geotechnical. For a year, Wiebe worked mainly in the company’s soils lab analyzing soil properties to properly design foundations or different slope stabilities and dike structures for a number of projects.
“I wasn’t technically doing engineering work but I was supporting them in that and I got to experience everything and see what was behind what they did,” says Wiebe.
In the summer of 2016, Wiebe worked at PCL Construction as part of his fourth co-op placement. For four months he was mainly on a job site working directly with the project manager and assisting others with a number of tasks, including updating drawings, managing subcontractors and schedules and even running the on-site safety program.
Wiebe says the co-op program was instrumental in helping him find his way.
“It’s a great opportunity for employers to see who you are, what your work ethic is like. You get to see and experience what you’ll actually be doing in engineering when you graduate,” says Wiebe. “You can get a summer job outside of the co-op program but the program makes it that much easier. They provide you with postings, feedback on your resume, mock interviews even. They provide you with all the tools you need to succeed.”
For his final placement that took place last summer, Wiebe worked in the water and wastewater department at Tetra Tech. This experience allowed him to really find his footing. He was given many opportunities to use the technical knowledge he learned in school and directly apply it to the engineering work at hand. Wiebe was mainly involved in lagoon design and water treatment plant design, executing studies and assessments and writing their reports afterwards.
“The opportunities I was given, the risks that they took on; I actually had the opportunity to do some of these more advanced projects that really drew me in and got me to want to come back.”
And so he is. After graduating this spring, Wiebe already has a job. He’s going back to Tetra Tech. In fact, his superiors at the company were so impressed with him that he was nominated and named as the Friends of Engineering Co-op Student of the Year. That’s not all though. Wiebe was also presented with the University of Manitoba’s Co-operative Education Student Champion Award for 2018.
“I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t do the co-op program. It’s a great opportunity for employers to have a four-month interview, or longer, with the student. It’s a good opportunity for the student to get a feel for the employer as well,” says Wiebe. “For me it was a good opportunity to try out different things because you’re only committed for four months. Whether it was Trek or PCL, those were good opportunities for me to see. It’s a really good way to get a feel for different fields within your program and to get a feel for the employer themselves and see if it’s somewhere you want to go back to. You build great connections and I have a job after graduation because of it.”